The Fundamental Point We Are Missing About Hillary Clinton's E-Mails

LOS ANGELES CA - AUGUST 6: Democratic Presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) speaks during a
LOS ANGELES CA - AUGUST 6: Democratic Presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) speaks during a Service Employees International Union event with home care providers at Los Angeles Trade Technical College August 6, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. They talked about the need for quality long-term care for the elderly and disabled. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Focusing mainly on how many classified emails were on Hillary Clinton's illegal server misses a fundamental point: MOST of Secretary Clinton's emails would have been sensitive because she was the Secretary of State. For a foreign intelligence agency, being able to follow a virtual conversation between her and, say, President Obama, would have been worth it's weight in gold. Foreign intelligence services would not have been watching her email just to capture classified memos. They would have wanted to tap into her thinking and decision-making. Running her own, private system outside of the U.S. government made it easy for them to do so.

First, can we drop the pretenses that the server was "secure?" It was in her home and set up by a Clinton staffer. It utilized the same infrastructure for sending and receiving emails as you are using to read this post. Second, don't get me wrong, the presence of classified information on her personal e-mail account is inexcusable. If she sent NSA material on her unclassified email she essentially did what Edward Snowden did, without the asylum in Russia and Ron Paul accolades. But the truly egregious action was to have opened the kimono of her--and thus the U.S. government's--policy deliberation to foreign governments. Imagine the gleeful reactions in the Kremlin as the "reset button" was debated live in front of their eyes.

Intelligence agencies spend billions of dollars each year to spy on U.S. leaders. Foreign countries would have wanted to know what the Secretary knew and how she prioritized issues--the why of her decisions. The U.S. spends billions each year to make that task more difficult. For example, the U.S maintains three separate computer systems, each for different classifications, each more secure than the next. Secretary Clinton's private server mooted those efforts. Her behavior showed her chief worry was Congress, not America's enemies.

There isn't really a benevolent explanation for emails on an unclassified system containing intelligence from five different intelligence agencies (the NSA, NGIC, CIA, DIA and DNI). There are only a couple ways that classified information could have been in her e-mail. Either she was sending documents or she repeated info she had heard or read.

It is quite laborious to transfer information between the three separate computer systems I mentioned above. The systems are not linked. For example, you cannot email from one system to another. For obvious security reasons and to keep employees, accidentally or otherwise, from transferring information from one system to another, the various classified systems do not have disc drives. In most cases a thumb drive would be necessary and I don't even know if that would work.

The systems are also closely monitored to recognize any such transfer. Because it is so difficult to transfer entire memos the relatively charitable explanation for Secretary Clinton having such classified information is that she simply regurgitated information. Each line in a typical intelligence report can be classified differently as the reports are compiled from many sources of varying classification.

With so much information flowing across a Secretary of State's desk keeping the correct classification assigned to the specific nugget of info can be daunting, especially if working from memory. But because her e-mails were on an unclassified, private system it would have been easy. Nothing classified or sensitive should have made its way into her emails. If she were mulling over an information nugget, for example, about Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone conversations it would be a pretty safe guess that it was classified and had no business in her unclassified email.

However, even if there was no classified information contained in her emails the sensitive nature of her work and its exposure is extremely concerning. This concern is outside the scope of the Inspectors General reports and FBI investigation. Just about everybody has a personal e-mail, but she used hers to conduct official government business as a Secretary of State, a sitting member of the National Security Council and the nation's chief diplomat.

It has been widely reported that she ran an awful lot of her decisions by confident Sidney Blumenthal, even having him run a private intelligence network of sorts for her. She routinely forwarded his emails to staffers asking for comment, providing a running commentary on U.S. security issues and priorities for the world to see. He probably wasn't the only outside advisor.

In one e-mail she derides UK Prime Minister David Cameron as "whacky." In another, she discusses with an advisor the nature of the then unreleased UN Gladstone Report, a report that was highly critical of Israel, and the fact that she had informed President Obama, through Rahm Emanuel, of Israel's message to her. Another e-mail was an exchange with Sandy Berger, a man with his own intelligence mishandling issues, about how to handle negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Don't you think the Israelis were interested in reading advice to the Secretary of State on how their prime minister should be handled? This information would not have been classified but is very, very sensitive. It was official government business

Again, this is a point in addition to the current criminal FBI investigation about whether her e-mails contained classified information and whether she mishandled it. Regardless of the outcome of that investigation this should remain a large issue. Virtually every e-mail would have been interesting to some foreign government or another. They would have been exactly what intelligence services were looking for. It was terrible judgement on her part.

This raises an ironic point that Governor Scott Walker has made. It is virtually certain that foreign intelligence services have had better luck accessing Secretary Clinton's official business e-mails than has the U.S. Congress, despite the outstanding subpoenas and investigations. They and Mrs. Clinton are the only ones that will ever know the content of the 30,000 emails that her staff deleted. Think about that for a second. Vladimir Putin knows more about the Clinton Global Initiative, Teneo and State Department shakedown operation lining the Clintons' pockets than do the American people--by design! I'm sure Russian intelligence officers are gleefully mulling over the uses of that kompromat should Hillary become president.

In addition to possible jail and fines, the law typically stipulates forfeiting property gained from illicit activity. As is becoming clear, the Clinton Foundation, President Clinton through speeches and Teneo gained quite handsomely from Hillary Clinton's time at State, but that kind of forfeiture is unlikely.

Lowly staffers would have to worry about jail and crippling fines. I seriously doubt jail is a concern of hers. In fact, Secretary Clinton's deliberately did this in an effort to keep records away from Congress. Likewise, it is doubtful she is worried about fines. She and President Clinton have netted $100 million since leaving the White House. It will take an awfully large fine to hurt. Short of this crippling her White House ambitions I'm not sure what would, but this is Washington after I am expecting nothing.